Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Snow Day That Wasn't

Unlike all the other districts in the county, my district did not have a snow day today. However, since my school is a center-based program that services students from all districts in the county, on days like today when other districts are closed (and therefore not providing transportation for their students to our program), we have very few students who actually show up. This is not entirely unusual; our district is an urban, high-poverty district so they are loathe to close because many kids will miss their free breakfast and lunch on snow days and may not eat that day. We are notorious for never closing. But it does make other-district snow days kind of frustrating for our program.

So, I had 3 students today. There are four adults (including myself) who work in my room. Yup, that's a higher-than-1:1 ratio. The (lucky?) kids who made it to school got so tired of all that one-on-one attention. Work work work work!

We actually began the day with no power at school...no heat...no phones or computers or warm water or hot breakfast...thankfully, the power and heat and everything came back on an hour and a half into the school day!

So, what did we do on our Snow Day That Wasn't? (other than regular "school stuff," that is)

Since it was relatively "warm" outside today (we go outside very infrequently in the winter, because of various students' health issues that make very cold weather dangerous -- but today it was above freezing - safer, not to mention great packing snow!), we decided to make a snowman after lunch. Two of my three boys who were at school had never made one before!

Rolling some really heavy snow! This was a workout! Great physical therapy :)

Using water+food coloring in spray bottles to "draw" the face.

All dressed up! Random hat, scarf and mittens we had in our room...buttons made from milk bottle caps from hot lunches...my flip flops I wear on swimming day...the arms are a student's outgrown arm orthotics (splints/braces)! You can see we had fun using up the rest of the colored water on the snow after we finished the face!

Since it was above freezing today, our snowman melted enough to fall over by the time I left at the end of the day...but it was fun while it lasted!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The 100th Valentine's Day (or something like that)

Because we had a snow day last week, Valentine's Day and the 100th Day of school happened to fall on the same day. And because Thursday is our crazy-busy day with being out of our room until noon for physical therapy, art class, sensory therapy, and lunch all jammed into the time right after breakfast...and because we had our all-school Valentine's dance after lunch...we did not get to do much celebrating of either day in the classroom. We did manage a couple fun activities, though:

(Please excuse the crappy cell phone photos - I've done a really poor job taking photos in my classroom lately!)

Valentine marble paintings. The kids taped three heart cutouts onto white paper, then placed the paper into a copy paper box lid. Roll a marble or super ball into paint, placed the ball in the box lid and (carefully!) tip the box lid back and forth so the ball rolls around, making fun designs and tracks. When the paint dried, I traced around the heart cutouts with a sharpie before removing the cutouts to reveal the white hearts underneath! These turned out really cute and the kids had fun with it. Bonus: minimal mess as the paint stays in the box lid!

A 100-topping pizza for the 100th day of school! We have been counting the days of school every morning in circle time, using the standard straw place value bundling system and also tallying the days in our circle time notebooks. A couple of my higher kiddos are grasping the concept of counting by tens, so we had 10 topping types with 10 of each to make our 100-topping pizza!

Of course, we had pizza on the brain so I picked up a couple Papa Murphy's pizzas to bake for lunch as a special treat.

And of course, as my kids are pre-teens and teens, the highlight of their day was the all-school Valentine's dance. This year especially, they are becoming rather aware *ahem* of themselves and their friends in the way only pre-teens and teens can be...In my 9 years of teaching at my school, this was perhaps the closest I have ever experienced to a typical middle school or high school dance. Two "highlights" (if you can call it that):

-One student (girl) was dancing in her stander. As another student (boy) danced near her, she reached out for him. He didn't notice her, ignored her, whatever, and danced on by...She burst into tears until he came back to dance with her and then she was all smiles.
-Two students (boy and girl) were dancing together...a little too closely and suggestively to be appropriate...which I knew was deliberate. I had to play the part of a chaperone for the first time in my life and tell them to back off just a bit! (If you went to a parochial school growing up as I did, you'll get the reference "leave room for the Holy Spirit," won't you?)

Oh boy.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Snow Day and some behavior

Well, I got my wish from this month's Currently for a snow day! Though we were predicted to get an inch an hour and over a foot of snow overnight, I always operate under the "I'll believe it when I see it" philosophy...and even then, our district never closes. But I got the call around 4:30 this morning so I got to shut off the alarm! What a treat - I have needed a little break and it came at the perfect time.

I have been meaning to share a personal behavior system I use with one of my kiddos with severe behavior issues (self-abuse and violence towards others, to be vague and non-specific about it).

As a whole-class behavior system, we use the clip chart and ticket system I put together this summer. It's working really well for most of my students. They are also learning how to evaluate their own behavior using a "thumbs up, thumbs down, or just okay" hand sign. I ask them about their behavior/participation level throughout the day at predetermined times and they give me the hand signal and can have their clip moved up or down accordingly...they are doing pretty well with understanding expectations and being honest about how they are following those expectations when asked!

If anyone would like a better explanation of our thumbs up/thumbs down system, how it works with the clip chart/tickets, and how I've been teaching self-evaluation to kids with severe/multiple impairments, let me know and I'd be glad to elaborate.

For my kiddo I mentioned above with the severe behaviors, he does follow the whole-class system, but he also needs something additional. He has several different things he is highly motivated by, as well as a few things we have discovered that help him get control of his behavior, so I created this little chart for him that goes with him throughout the day:
Each morning, he chooses something to work for - a small treat or privilege he can earn at the end of the day. He also decides on something that he can ask for throughout the day to help him control his behavior.

This day he chose a cup of flavored water as his treat at the end of the day (other options he may choose from are a bike ride, a visit with our principal who he loves, or a story on CD). He said time with the weighted blanket would help him (other "help" options for him are time in a strap wedge, a hand massage with lavender oil, or some time alone). He can ask for the "help" item three different times throughout the day. He starts with three of the weighted blanket icons on his chart and we remove one each time he asks for help so he can see how many he has left.

The six smiling face icons stay uncovered at the beginning of the day. We add a red "X" icon over one each time his behavior gets out of control. If he ends the day with at least one smiling face, he has earned the treat.

I am loving this for a few reasons:
-He is in control of the choices. He had input when we created the chart, as far as what options he wanted to be available to him (we did get veto power! no, he is not allowed to work for an entire movie!), and it's entirely up to him what he chooses, both for the treat and the help item, each day. This freedom has ended up being really motivating to him.
-It's completely editable. If we find six "strikes" are too few or too many, it'd be easy to take away or add some. Likewise with the number of "helps" he gets each day. Or, if he becomes motivated by another treat, that can go into the mix...or if we discover another option that really helps calm him, we can add that, too.
-It's small and portable so it goes with him everywhere. He can always see it, and it's easy for staff to implement. We keep the icons in a small, clear pencil pouch and that also goes with us everywhere.
-It's relatively low-key to implement, and not distracting to the other students. If he gets out of control, we can just quietly tell him "I need to add an X to your chart," and quickly do so and move on. (Obviously if there is a violent behavior it needs to be addressed more explicitly to keep him or others safe - he is in a wheelchair so with this student it is fairly simple, most times, to move him to a safe distance from other people if needed.) We actually don't have to say anything most times. He definitely understands what that red X means and knows he has to get his behavior under control if he doesn't want more.

This would be super easy to customize for other students; I just have not had to as of yet. I created the chart in Boardmaker, but it would be just as easy to use real photos, words, etc. according to the needs of the particular student.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

February Currently

It's time for February's Currently!

Listening - do any of you watch the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet? I probably will skip the football game (maybe I'll leave it on in the background) but watching adorable puppies romp around? Yes, please!

Loving - yes, my furnace is back to working! I'm sooo relieved - and warm. Also, a family friend is in the middle of finishing my basement for me! I'm so excited to have a customized work space for lesson planning/printing/laminating/creating/blogging...as well as a space for working out, and a finished laundry room.
Here's a "before" picture of what will be my teacher work area - previously only storage:
And how the same space looks now...walls, lighting, space for a counter/desk (going to be installed tomorrow I believe), storage closets at the back! Obviously there's still a ways to go but so far I'm in love!

Wanting - every single school district in our area has had at least one snow day so far...except mine (not particularly unusual, but it does get a little anticlimactic with morning after morning of scrolling through the massive list of school closings and not finding my district). I have felt so behind lately that just one day would be super-nice!

Pet Peeves - To me, having an entitlement complex is one of the least attractive characteristics another person can have...I seem to have a few of these people in my life lately. It's exhausting.

All right, I'm off to link up with Farley's linky - remember the Rule of Three! - and to get back into printing and laminating!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Super Sale!

I'm not much of a football fan (at all!)...but I am a TPT fan!! I've put my store on sale tomorrow...so combine my 20% off with TPT's discount by using the code SUPER at checkout and get up to 28% off! Click the adorable graphic below to go shopping at my store!

I wanted to have a new product ready for the sale, but I don't think that's going to happen...this week was crazy and I'm so behind on everything! But my wishlist is primed and ready to go...can't wait to shop tomorrow!

And...please think WARM thoughts for me...my furnace went out last night. It is a balmy 54 degrees inside my house this morning...sitting with blankets and hot coffee waiting for the heater guy to show up and hopefully fix it! Hoping and praying I do not need a new furnace altogether...yikes. Here's hoping I'll be nice and warm while shopping/product-creating/blog stalking tomorrow!
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